What can 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate do about the War in Iraq? Hold hearings, hold press conferences, hold trips to the Middle East. One more thing, however -- ultimately Congress does have the power of the purse.

Refusing to fund a war, no matter how unpopular, is the toughest call for a politician. “You refused to fund our troops, to give them support, how could you do such a thing in the midst of war time?”

Cutting off funds for a war is rarely an option that a politician considers, if they are considering reelection.
My former boss, Senator Frank Church of Idaho, teamed up with a Republican, John Sherman Cooper of Kentucky, to offer the Cooper-Church Amendment in 1970 to cut off funds during the Vietnam War for incursions into Cambodia and Laos. It took great courage and it stirred tremendous debate, since it was the first time Congress had restricted deployment of troops during a war against the policy of a president (Richard Nixon).

This precedent could be applied by Congress to stopping the escalation (read “surge”) of troops into Iraq. An amendment that prohibited funds for the additional troops could be introduced by a bipartisan group. Very simple. “No U.S. funds shall be used to add more troops to Iraq above 135,000.”

Would that shake up our policy toward Iraq? You bet, but it would take some pretty courageous members of Congress….folks like Frank Church and John Sherman Cooper.